Year end in­ter­view with Paul Davis

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMES MCLEOD

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Leader Paul Davis was not feel­ing holly and jolly and fes­tive when he sat down for the tra­di­tional year-end in­ter­view with The Tele­gram.

A year ago, when Davis spoke to The Tele­gram for his 2015 year-end in­ter­view, the talk was mostly about the pro­vin­cial elec­tion that had just tossed him out of the pre­mier’s of­fice.

A year later, Davis launches al­most im­me­di­ately into elec­tion talk, and the Lib­er­als’ bro­ken prom­ises.

“What hap­pened last year was peo­ple were promised so much, and they didn’t need to be promised so much,” Davis said.

“They had no in­ten­tion of keep­ing (those prom­ises) and peo­ple feel be­trayed. They feel like they’re liv­ing in a cir­cum­stance now that’s more dif­fi­cult than we’ve seen in a very, very, very long time.”

When asked point­edly about it, Davis said he’s not hung up on the elec­tion — he said he was re­signed to los­ing more than a year be­fore the elec­tion was even called.

But he re­peat­edly crit­i­cized the Lib­eral elec­tion cam­paign rhetoric — “fluffy, piein-the-sky kind of stuff” — and per­ceived dis­hon­esty since tak­ing of­fice.

In the past year, the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has given Davis a lot of ammo for those kinds of ac­cu­sa­tions.

Ball seemed to say con­tra­dic­tory things in the long-run­ning sev­er­ance scan­dal re­lated to out­go­ing Nal­cor En­ergy CEO Ed Martin, a mat­ter that is still un­der investigation by the prov­ince’s au­di­tor general.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment broke elec­tion prom­ises about not rais­ing the prov­ince’s sales tax and not lay­ing off gov­ern­ment work­ers.

Ball flew a con­tro­ver­sial Chris­tian flag at Con­fed­er­a­tion Build­ing, and claimed there was no clear pol­icy on the mat­ter, but then gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments later in­di­cated there is a pol­icy that should have pre­vented the flag from be­ing raised.

On the elec­tion prom­ises that have been kept by the Lib­er­als — such as es­tab­lish­ing an in­de­pen­dent ap­point­ments com­mis­sion and a se­niors’ ad­vo­cate — Davis says the fi­nal prod­uct is a lot less than what was promised.

“Right now, the prob­lem I hear most from peo­ple is trust. They don’t trust them,” Davis said.

“They say one thing, and then the op­po­si­tion goes to work and does (ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion re­quests), and goes dig­ging around, and we do our work and find out, well, no, that’s not the way it re­ally is.”

Look­ing ahead to 2017 and the fu­ture, Davis is in some­thing of a lame duck sit­u­a­tion.

Ear­lier this year he an- nounced he would step aside as party leader ahead of the 2019 elec­tion, af­ter it be­came clear some fac­tions of his own party were push­ing for a con­fi­dence vote to oust him.

Davis said his plan now is to stick around un­til at least 2019, but as politi­cians are fond of say­ing, “three years is a long time in pol­i­tics.”

The party is cur­rently work­ing on de­vel­op­ing new rules for how his suc­ces­sor will be picked, and he says he’s feel­ing op­ti­mistic about that.

“I want to see a lead­er­ship process that’s go­ing to be con­ducive to hav­ing good dis­cus­sions, be able to see what peo­ple’s poli­cies and in­ten­tions are, how they’re go­ing to do busi­ness and so on,” he said.

“From a party per­spec­tive, I think it’s a good op­por­tu­nity for the party. It’s a lot of work to do. It’s a dif­fi­cult process to get there, but I’m look­ing for­ward to a good out­come in the end.”

As for the prov­ince in 2017, Davis gave a bit more of an op­ti­mistic as­sess­ment than 2016.

“We’ve got great po­ten­tial for the prov­ince, in the fu­ture,” he said.

“Right now it’s strug­gling be­cause of the world econ­omy and the im­pacts of oil, but I think we’ve got great po­ten­tial.”

JAMES MCLEOD/THE TELE­GRAM

In a year-end in­ter­view with The Tele­gram, Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Leader Paul Davis said the Lib­er­als had no in­ten­tion of keep­ing the prom­ises they made dur­ing the 2015 pro­vin­cial elec­tion cam­paign.

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